In today’s busy world, many people struggle with the effects of not getting enough sleep at night and feeling tired during the day. In fact, feeling tired has fueled an entire industry of energy drinks and pick-me-up products.
But what if you’re getting six to eight hours of sleep at night, yet still feel excessively tired or find yourself falling asleep at inappropriate times throughout the day? Or, what if instead of sleeping six to eight hours at night, you sleep more than 10 hours and find it difficult to wake up? You may be more than just tired; you may be suffering from hypersomnia.
At The Woods at Parkside, a mental health and addiction recovery treatment center in Ohio, we specialize in treating mental health issues and their accompanying symptoms, including hypersomnia. Our multi-faceted approach is uniquely tailored to each individual. We focus on identifying the root causes of mental health disorders and addiction, and then providing a customized path forward toward long-term recovery. But before we get into how we treat hypersomnia, let’s look at what this condition really is.
What Is Hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia literally means “too much sleep.” According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, hypersomnia “is characterized by recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep.”
Also known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), hypersomnia is more than just feeling tired due to lack of sleep or poor sleep quality. People with this condition often feel compelled to nap frequently during the day, and tend to fall asleep at inappropriate times. Yet despite sleeping longer and more often, hypersomniacs find that the extra sleep does not alleviate their tiredness.
Feeling tired all the time can impact your quality of life and put you at risk for accidents at home, on the job or while driving. If you or a loved one are experiencing hypersomnia, it may be a symptom of a larger problem that requires specialized treatment.
Types of Hypersomnia
There are two types of hypersomnia: primary and secondary.
Primary hypersomnia, also known as Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH) occurs with no other medical conditions present. You just feel tired all the time, with no apparent reason. The causes of primary hypersomnia are largely unknown. However, the disorder is believed to be caused by problems with the systems in your brain that control sleep and waking functions. Because IH is a rare disorder and has symptoms similar to other sleep disorders, it can be difficult to properly diagnose.
Secondary hypersomnia is caused by underlying medical conditions which tend to cause poor sleep at night. These can include sleep apnea, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other conditions.
Symptoms of hypersomnia include:
- Constant tiredness
- Low energy
- Slow thinking or speech (also known as ‘sleep drunkenness’)
- Excessive sleep (10 or more hours at night, plus daytime naps)
- Difficulty waking from sleep despite the aid of alarms (sleep inertia)
- Taking long naps that are unrefreshing and difficult to wake up from
How Is Hypersomnia Different from Narcolepsy?
Though similar, there are some key differences between narcolepsy and hypersomnia. Both conditions cause excessive daytime sleepiness. However, the reasons behind that sleepiness and the symptoms caused by it are different for both conditions.
|Differences Between Hypersomnia and Narcolepsy|
|Excessive daytime sleepiness|
|Occasional difficulty staying asleep during the night||Persistent difficulty staying asleep during the night|
|Difficulty waking||No difficulty waking|
|Recurrent periods of sleep within same day||Sudden, uncontrollable episodes of sleep|
|Naps not refreshing||Naps are often refreshing|
|Lack of REM sleep||Unstable, inefficient REM sleep|
|Hallucinations around sleep onset/offset|
|Cataplexy (loss of muscle control related
to laughter, facial grimaces or tongue thrusting)
Causes of Hypersomnia
While the causes of IH remain largely unknown , researchers believe some of the potential causes of secondary hypersomnia include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
- Being overweight
- Low thyroid function
- Head injuries
The Diagnosis Process
Hypersomnia affects four to six percent of the population. Due to its similarity to other sleep disorders, this condition can be difficult to diagnose. There are three essential criteria for diagnosing hypersomnia:
- Daily symptoms for at least three months
- Sleepiness symptoms that are not improved by a good night’s rest
- Experience of symptoms that are not easily explained by other sleep disorders, illness, or prescribed medications
A number of tests and techniques are also used to diagnose hypersomnia, including:
- Overnight sleep test or polysomnography (PSG) – A machine monitors brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, oxygen levels, and breathing function while you sleep. Usually administered during an overnight stay at a sleep center.
- Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) – A monitored test administered during a daytime nap to determine sleep quality
- Keeping a ‘sleep diary’ – The patient records sleep and awake times throughout the night to determine sleep patterns
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) – A self-administered test in which the patient rates their chances of dozing off or falling asleep during eight different activities
The Link Between Substance Abuse and Hypersomnia
Evidence suggests that drug and alcohol abuse can contribute to the development and intensity of hypersomnia. Many people with primary hypersomnia turn to stimulants to help them combat sleepiness throughout the day. While this may provide a temporary feeling of alertness, it can eventually lead to addiction. In addition, prolonged use of stimulants and other chemicals can negatively affect brain functions connected to sleep and alter the body’s circadian rhythms, causing jet lag and feelings of tiredness.
Depressants, such as marijuana, alcohol, and heroin initially promote sleep, but prolonged use and abuse can affect sleep quality. These drugs impact the central nervous system, suppress REM sleep, and contribute to an overall poorer quality of sleep.
Treatment Options for You
Stimulants are often the first course of treatment for hypersomnia. This is tricky for people with drug or alcohol addictions, as the stimulants prescribed for hypersomnia tend to have a high potential for abuse. For that reason, the best approach is to treat both disorders at the same time, under the care and observation of health care and addiction recovery professionals.
If you or a loved are struggling with hypersomnia, depression, substance abuse, or other mental health and addiction issues, help is just a phone call or email away at The Woods at Parkside treatment center in Ohio. Our dedicated team of physicians, nurses, counselors, and support staff are ready to help diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders including alcoholism, drug addiction and hypersomnia.
Freedom from addiction and the energy-sapping effects of hypersomnia is possible. And it’s closer than you think. Call our admissions specialists at (614) 471-2552 or reach out online and see how the co-occurring disorders treatment program at The Woods at Parkside can help stop the cycle of